For the first few weeks of training camp, safety Dalton Hilliard earned the award for most yelled at player on the UCLA defense.
That's saying something, because defensive coordinator Joe Tresey tends to give an earful to just about every player under his command.
But in the last week or so, the screaming directed Hilliard's way has decreased significantly as the junior has picked up the defense and made fewer and fewer mistakes.
"I haven’t been yelled at in a while," said Hilliard, competing for playing time at the strong safety spot. "It’s been a little quiet from Coach Tresey."
That wasn't the case early in camp. Hilliard sat out spring practice after surgery to remove cartilage from his knee and so he didn't have the chance to learn the defense the newly-hired Tresey was putting in. So the first week or 10 days of camp were filled with mistakes by Hilliard, followed by a loud tirade from Tresey.
"He’s a yelling coach, I understand that," Hilliard said. "My dad is a Marine, I’ve been yelled at worse so whenever someone yells at me, I take that as they are really interested in making me a better player. He’s making sure I’m in the right spot at the right time and I’m taking that yelling and using it to motivate myself to learn the defense faster and better and I think I have."
Tresey was hard on Hilliard, he said, because he wants Hilliard on the field. He's a 6-foot, 200-pound hitting machine who played well in limited action last season and is expected to make a major contribution this season.
"This is a whole new system for him and he's being thrown into the fire so I'm putting a lot of pressure on him to learn the defense from a free safety and strong safety standpoint," Tresey said. "We need to eliminate the mental errors because he's a talented player. He plays fast. He sees something, he can do it."
Hilliard said he has worked hard to learn the defensive schemes and the assignments and that it's all starting to make sense. Now, he said, he can just play.
"I’m feeling confident out there," he said. "Whenever you try to think and move at the same time, you’re not moving your fastest. Whenever you can just go and not think, you play a lot faster and a lot more confident. So that’s the biggest thing for me to be playing like that and getting back to my normal ways."